I have opined many times on the havoc caused by huge factory farms. In addition to cheap meat, these facilities produce animal suffering, enormous volumes of waste, and a variety of public health threats, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria. All of these problems are carefully documented in David Kirby's new book Animal Factory.
Factory farming interests like to claim that they represent rural people and rural values, but that's a canard. Rural people increasingly are in the forefront of the movement against factory farms, since they often experience the problems most acutely, especially the downstream environmental effects.
Yesterday The Humane Society of the United States chalked up a victory for rural residents, in celebrating a major victory in our battle against factory farms when a federal judge in New York ruled for The HSUS in our long-running water pollution lawsuit against Hudson Valley Foie Gras -- the largest foie gras factory farm in the United States.
HVFG is one of only a handful of remaining factory farms in the entire United States producing foie gras -- French for "fatty liver" -- by force-feeding ducks or geese an unnatural amount of food through a pipe thrust down their throats until their livers become fattened and diseased. Force-feeding, which occurs for weeks at a time, can cause painful bruising, lacerations, sores, and organ rupture. The birds' livers can enlarge more than ten times the normal size, making it difficult for the animals to move or breathe.
At The HSUS, we have seen time and again that factory farmers' willful disregard for animal welfare often goes hand in hand with disregard for the environment, for workers' rights, and the rights of the unfortunate neighbors of these facilities. It was no different here, as we discovered that HVFG's massive force-feeding operation was responsible for thousands of violations of the federal Clean Water Act. After seeing the effects on the local community, we decided to take legal action.
Judge Harold Baer, Jr.'s ruling yesterday concludes a long, hard-fought chapter to hold HVFG accountable, at least for its environmental pollution. In an extensive ruling, the court found that HVFG violated its Clean Water Act obligations on many occasions and in numerous ways. In a strongly worded opinion, the court issued an injunction against further Clean Water Act violations by HVFG, ordered HVFG to hire an expert and take remedial action, declared that HVFG will be fined $25,000 per day per violation for further violations, and ordered HVFG to pay $50,000 for an environmental project on the Middle Mongaup River -- the final resting place for HVFG's water pollution.
In its ruling, the court noted that even after more than three years of litigation, HVFG still doesn't seem to understand its obligation under the federal Clean Water Act. As Judge Baer put it, "the fact that a regulated [factory farm] like HVFG could not comprehend the basic research necessary to ensure compliance with its permit and the Clean Water Act is at best, disturbing."
I couldn't agree more.
This post originally appeared on Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.